Localism is a fine approach but the Government feels it should not apply to defence and foreign policies. Thus new rules have been announced to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:
“Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”
Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said
“Conservatives are on the common ground. We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”
Last November Labour-run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In January Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel – the council resolved to consider the issue further and ‘work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Last year I wrote about the Tricycle Theatre, funded by Brent Council, banning the Jewish Film Festival on he grounds that it was sponsored by the Israeli Embassy.
Given that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader is supportive of this approach more Labour councils could have been expected to fall into line. In fairness Ed Miliband disowned the policy.
Furthermore in August last year, the SNP-led Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils which ‘strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements’, though conceding that ‘decisions need to be taken on a case by case basis’. Four Scottish councils have resolved to boycott Israeli goods: Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire.
In June 2015, Labour-affiliated UNISON launched a campaign to lobby councils to divest their Local Government Pension Schemes from companies linked with Israel.
For councils to play politics with pension funds or with the procurement of local services is quite unacceptable. All the more so when it is done in a way that has left many in the Jewish community feeling under attack.